Why Governors’ Pardon Grants Can Be “Political Land Mines”


A pardon can redress an overly harsh sentence or a wrongful conviction. It can also prove to be a political land mine, reports NPR. What makes the case of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour more than 200 so unusual is that he issued barely a handful of pardons as governor and then on his last day on the job “dump[ed] all these at the end,” says P.S. Ruckman, a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois.

“It’s too bad the way he’s done this,” Ruckman says, “It just casts a shadow over the whole process.” Joshua Kleinfeld, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, agrees that Barbour’s move is unusual and that it contributes to a public perception that justice is sometimes short-circuited. “I think the public feels betrayed when convicted criminals appear to escape ordinary justice,” Kleinfeld says. “That feeling is definitely exacerbated when the pardons come en masse.” In contrast to Barbour, Gov. Mike Beebe in neighboring Arkansas has granted pardons throughout his time in office. That gives the process more credibility, so when Beebe issues a pardon, “it doesn’t appear to have been done under cover of darkness,” Ruckman says

Comments are closed.